MEET THE TEAM
Get to know Team WITS
As WITS Chief Development Officer, Ashley Bloom fosters a culture of philanthropy and ensures that fund development strategies are executed in keeping with the WITS values, vision, and mission. She takes pride in building relationships with WITS supporters and leading the development team to achieve its goals. Ashley has worked over a decade in fundraising, holding positions at American Cancer Society, Food Allergy Research & Education, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ashley's passion for the WITS mission is driven by her toddler's love for reading. They enjoy experiencing the diverse world of kids lit together during bedtime read alouds.
Delaney Earley, Program Coordinator
As a Program Coordinator, Delaney builds relationships with volunteers, corporate partners, and school administrators throughout Chicago to provide high-quality literacy programming to WITS students. Before joining the WITS Team, Delaney served at City Year Chicago, where she was a tutor and mentor to 3rd and 4th grade students on the South Side of the city. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BA in Urban Studies and was excited to return home to Chicago to cheer on the White Sox in person, and spend time with family and friends. The Harry Potter series sparked her love for reading at a young age, and she continues to enjoy a wide variety of literature.
Marc Escobedo, Development Director
As WITS Development Director, Marc Escobedo oversees and spearheads development efforts through corporate partnerships, signature events, and the Associates Board. Prior to WITS, he was an External Affairs Manager at Chicago Cares for three years. He started his career on the programmatic end for Chicago Cares and City Year, but he then found a passion for cultivating relationships. Marc's drive for the WITS mission stems from his experience working in Chicago Public Schools and his wife's career as a 6th grade reading teacher on the west side of Chicago.
As a program coordinator, Jessica cultivates strong relationships between mentors, teachers, and corporate partners to provide engaging, student-centered literacy programming. Prior to joining WITS, she was the English and Community Projects Coordinator at a lab school in Merida, Mexico where she designed programs with a focus on literacy and the arts. Jessica holds an MEd in Instructional Leadership and a BA in English both from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys reading, puzzling, and going on road trips.
Precious Hutton, Program Coordinator
Precious facilitates WITS weekly literacy mentorship programs with students and volunteers while also developing and managing relationships between volunteers, corporate partners, and school coordinators. Precious earned a BA in Psychology with a concentration in Black Cultural Studies from Claremont Mckenna College located in Claremont, California. Prior to joining the WITS community, she has worked extensively with nonprofit organizations that focus on youth development and working with BIPOC youth. During her free time, she loves dancing, writing, and traveling across the world with close friends and family.
As Chief Executive Officer, Tena oversees the financial growth and strategic implementation of WITS programs, the largest provider of literacy services to Chicago public elementary schools. Formerly as WITS’ Chief Strategy Officer, she oversaw the doubling of individual giving and development of sustainable funding practices. Over 10 years, she has held leadership roles in a variety of Chicago non-profits, with majority being in the education and youth development space. Tena has served as Assistant Director of Corporate Development at the University of Chicago – Booth School of Business, Director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program, and Regional Director at Up2Us Sports. Before moving to Chicago she was a Development Officer at Wayne State University, where she also received both her BA in Public Relations and MBA in Marketing and Management.
Elena Medeiros, Program Coordinator
Elena is a recent graduate from DePaul University with a BA in political science and a minor in history. She is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota and grew up speaking and reading in English and Portuguese. As a new program coordinator at WITS, Elena is thrilled to work with the WITS community to share her excitement for language, literature, and learning.
Kandace Mack, Program Coordinator
As a Program Coordinator, Kandace fosters positive relationships with schools, corporate partners, and volunteers to support WITS’ mission of advancing student literacy in Chicago Public Schools. Kandace recently graduated from Northwestern University where she received a BA in Communications, majoring in Theatre and minoring in Creative Writing. She has an extensive background in theatre education having worked with The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska, and Seattle Children’s Theatre in Seattle, Washington. In her free time, she likes to write, read, and watch movies and cat videos.
Alex Michel, Development Director
As Development Director, Alex cultivates and develops strategies for corporate partnerships and plans and executes WITS annual events, including the Blackboard Affair gala. Alex also leads the WITS Associates Board in their initiatives to raise money and support WITS programming. She graduated with a BA in Art History from Denison University.
Tra’Lisha coordinates WITS student literacy programs, acts as a liaison between our partner schools and our community and corporate volunteers, and is responsible for reconstructing the WITS Mid-Day mentoring journal to align with Common Core Standards. Tra’Lisha holds a BA in English from Dominican University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. Prior to coordinating programs, she held AmeriCorps positions with organizations such as Jumpstart and City Year Chicago. During her free time, Tra’Lisha enjoys boxing, playing her guitar, and photography.
As the Program Manager for the Rochelle Lee Teacher Award, Daphne designs and implements the Summer Institute Professional Development series for teachers. Daphne recruits and build relationships with teachers and other educators to ensure robust study group recruitment. She manages WITS' relationship with the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure CPDUs processes are up to date. Daphne is a former RLTA awardee, and participates in the alumni book club. Daphne received a BA in Theology and Italian from Loyola University Chicago, a Master of Science in Journalism from Roosevelt University, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Roosevelt University and Middle School Endorsement from Roosevelt University. Daphne loves to read.
Estefania Rodriguez, Program Coordinator
Estefania is a bilingual psychologist with a second degree in International Relations both from University San Francisco of Quito “Universidad San Francisco de Quito”. Prior to joining WITS, Estefania worked in Quito, Ecuador as an Advisor to City Counselor where she wrote laws to rule the city of Quito in topics such as education, disabilities and mental health. In addition, Estefania worked as an inclusive teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she created programs that were individually tailored to each special needs student so they could be integrated into public schools. In her free time she likes to dance salsa, play guitar and sign.
Kellie develops and manages all aspects of the WITS marketing strategy. This includes website development, creation of all assets for campaigns, as well as all video production for WITS programs. Kellie graduated with a BA in General Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a MFA in Painting and Drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kellie is a practicing artist and has participated in programming at major museums, including The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Kellie has also shown in galleries both nationally and internationally.
Gretchen Sterba, Program Coordinator
Kristen is responsible for creating and implementing evaluation processes for WITS programs that track impact on all key stakeholders. Kristen formerly worked for the Academy of Urban School Leadership as a math tutor in Humboldt Park. She graduated from Roosevelt University with a BA in Journalism. She served two years with City Year at an elementary school in Englewood.
As Program Director, Ellen cultivates school and corporate relationships, oversees program design and quality control, and manages the WITS library and WITSummer Books initiatives. Ellen formerly served with Christopher House, focusing on adult literacy programs. She earned her BA in English from DePaul University.
Nick manages WITS operations and administrative processes including gift processing, accounts payable, acknowledgment letters, database management, and risk management. He previously worked in operations at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the University of Chicago Booth Schools of Business. He has an AA in Philosophy from Harold Washington College. His favorite hobby is reading.